This pocket synthesizer will break your heart


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Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators are $60 each and last about a month on two AAA batteries. Bloop! Bleep!


Obligatory “But where is the security system?” post.


I’m the operator with my pocket calculator…


Pocket Operators are also fairly limited, with a toy-like and unintuitive (IMHO) interface and no MIDI, even setting the frills aside, and not the slightest bit sturdy unless you shell out an extra $40 for the rubber case.

The one I have (PO-12 Rhythm) has a very scratchy pot which makes it impossible to tune sometimes, and also will kill its battery life when idle if you don’t manage to set it to someplace that will give a stable reading. It sounds half decent, but I just sample the thing instead of trying to actually use it.


I have five of em syncing with two Volcas (also affordable) and am having fun. I run two PO-12s just to get some more depth to the drums. As a more clever person than I once said “the enemy of art is the absence of limitations”.


It’s basically a gimmick. All of the “features” they list are basically about the form factor. It’s hand-held! It’s got USB! It’s got backlighting!

A “synthesizer” is not really a specific thing. It is a collection of signal generation/processing circuits/algorithms. The closest they get to explaining these is a list of cartridge types, lead, bass, drums (“rhythm”), and noise. Those are musical uses, not any kind of actual synthesis architectures. How do they work? Virtual analog? Wavetables? FM? Physical models? Additive? Samples? Without knowing what it actually does, I know practically nothing about it. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be any good, but IMO they are not offering anything beyond a few trendy I/O options.


I’d argue that, as an electronic musician, knowing I can control and sequence it from another device is actually important. (USB/wireless, with MIDI breakout on the dock. As opposed to many cheap portable musical gadgets which are stuck with an internal sequencer and a clock sync input at best.)

But otherwise, yes, this is a really vague and fluffy bit of vaporware so far.


A synth-calculator hybrid?


Indeed. The only thing about this that will “break my heart” is how crappy it seems.


I wouldn’t go that far. It’s that they are skirting around all of the stuff that would be selling points for most synthesists. To be fair, most of the big manufacturers have done this for decades and are only beginning to offer more involved info. But I kind of expect that smaller scale “boutique” synth makers will know to provide some specs.


I had one of those. It never turned me into a rock or synth-pop star, but I remember having fun with it.


Thanks a lot.
Now I have to figure out some way to talk myself out of buying a pocket operator.


The only way that I could talk myself out of buying one was to buy all six. Admittedly a poor strategy.


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